Beware idealistic career advice

Well-respected design leaders like to share career advice in design communities. It’s easy to follow this advice. Especially when it’s practical.

I’ve seen advice, for example, which suggests that your portfolio doesn’t have to be beautiful. It just needs to explain your process.

But my personal job-hunting experience suggests this is bad advice.

I think the problem is that this advice is idealistic. These well-respected design leaders work in companies with good hiring and design cultures. Often they’re the ones that set the hiring and design cultures in motion.

In my experience, for every one ideal design leader, there are nine less-ideal design leaders. Which ones do you think you should aim to please when you apply to a job?

To be fair, you can be selective. You can apply only to jobs where the person who hires you is an ideal design leader. Then you can follow all of this advice.

But those positions are few. Hard to find. There are many more positions available where you need to be a bit cynical to stand a chance.

Where you need to think, “what would impress the average person?”, and adjust your approach.